Sunday, November 24, 2019

Christ the King Sunday

• Christ the King Sunday    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk
A video of the worship service was posted on Facebook 11/24/19

I have been leading this Christ the King service for close to a dozen years, tweaking the scripture readings and the songs, but keeping the basic format. Every year I wonder, "Should I do this again?" and every year people tell me they appreciate this service. Glory to God!

Following is an order of worship for Christ the King Sunday

• Handbells at 4:20
• Children’s message at 17:50

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Keep Planting

• Keep Planting
with Luke 21:5-19    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk
A video of the worship service was posted on Facebook 11/17/19

Nothing Gold Can Stay
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower,
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief.
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
- Robert Frost, 1923
• An evocative poem about change and decay,
also sin, coming of age, maturity.
Kind of timeless in its beauty,
   like a dusty dried corsage.
Time changes all things.
The Temple was impermanent.
People change.
Life is full of instabilities.
Remember the good ol’ days?
• I thought of this poem after considering Jesus’ response to the disciples
as they marveled at the Temple.
I can see them marveling. I can imagine generations seeking to keep it in tact.
(I remember a hundred-year-old church being tuckpointed just a few years before it closed.)
Jesus is not saying pay attention to the coming of “End Times” –
indeed, saying it’s fruitless to spend yourself there; live now.
Jesus is instead saying don’t put your hope and energy in buildings.
In people. In politics. In good ol’ days.
• Things as you know them won’t last, Jesus says.
Here are some do’s and don’ts:
   Don’t be misled.
   Don’t follow false messiahs.
   Don’t panic!
   Don’t be anxious.
   DO testify. I’ll give you opportunity.
   DO trust in me. I’ll give you words.
   DO trust in me. Not a hair will be lost*
   DO persevere. Hang in there. Reward.
          *puzzling, this one. But Luke 17:33
          who seeks to save life will lose it…
          Your priority should not be self preservation.
• If you are planting a tree, and someone says Messiah is coming,
finish planting the tree, and then get up to greet Messiah.
– Rabbi Johann ben Zakkai, 1st Century
• Cling to the rock that is God. Emmanuel. Treasure in heaven. Gold that stays.

• Hymn 361 Rock of Ages

Luke 21:5-19 (HCSB)
5 As some were talking about the temple complex, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, He said, 6 “These things that you see—the days will come when not one stone will be left on another that will not be thrown down!”
7 “Teacher,” they asked Him, “so when will these things be? And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?”
8 Then He said, “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Don’t follow them. 9 When you hear of wars and rebellions, don’t be alarmed. Indeed, these things must take place first, but the end won’t come right away.”
10 Then He told them: “Nation will be raised up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be violent earthquakes, and famines and plagues in various places, and there will be terrifying sights and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you. They will hand you over to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of My name. 13 It will lead to an opportunity for you to witness. 14 Therefore make up your minds not to prepare your defense ahead of time, 15 for I will give you such words and a wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will even be betrayed by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends. They will kill some of you. 17 You will be hated by everyone because of My name, 18 but not a hair of your head will be lost. 19 By your endurance gain your lives. ò 

Sunday, November 10, 2019

No Handicap Parking in Heaven

• No Handicap Parking in Heaven
with Luke 20:27-38    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk
A video of the worship service was posted on Facebook 11/10/19

• 29 years ago my life was changed forever.
I was a freshman in college, I met the woman I would marry, and that’s what we did. 23 years ago she died.
Also 23 years ago my life was changed forever.
I met the woman I’d marry. And that’s what we did.
We’ve been married 20 years now.
The Sadducees’ question has long given me pause.
Who will I be married to in the resurrection?
I don’t even know where I want my body buried!
On the one hand, sounds like a legitimate question.
Luke points out, though, that it’s not: the Sadducees who don’t believe in life after death are asking a question about life after death. Hoping to trick or trap Jesus.
• Levirate marriage idea sounds odd to us, but in patriarchal culture where few women owned property or could honorably sustain themselves, LM offered protection for widows.
Think of it as a kind of life insurance.
A safety net for a woman in the event of her husband’s untimely death.
• One commentator I read said “I have many questions about resurrection, but the details aren’t the point. Or at least they weren’t when Jesus answered the Sadducees in the Temple. The point is, the promise of resurrection and the assurance of that promise have the capacity to guide our life in this age.”
Why aren’t the details the point?
Jesus provides an answer, with a twist.
Levirate marriage, a kind of life insurance, has death at its foundation.
The resurrection, eternal life, the kingdom of heaven, there is no death in the resurrection.
Therefore there is no life insurance and no Levirate marriage.
There are no handicap parking spaces in heaven and no flashlights.
How do our earthly relationships carry over in the kingdom?
I don’t know. Jesus doesn’t say.
But I trust there will be nothing to complain about.
• I think Jesus had another point, though, when he replied to the Sadducees.
Don’t waste your time on these things.
Recall the passage from Isaiah last week:
Live in relationship.
Live in relationship with God and people.
Esteem others.
Ritualistically going through the motions doesn’t honor me, God says. It’s your own mind game.
What I honor: seeking justice – that is, what is right among people. Helping the oppressed. Defending the orphan, pleading for the widow. Using the opportunity, power, influence you have to lift others who lack opportunity, power, influence.
• What if, instead of gatekeeping the Temple,
disciples spent their resources and efforts in outreach and advocacy?
What if instead of deciding who was in or out,
disciples fed the hungry and aided the sick?
What if the people of the church lived their public lives in such a way that others would be drawn to their actions and teachings?
• Churches are intended to be resurrection outposts with the ability to be a site and a people whose resources, words, and being can be a foretaste for the most vulnerable among us.
May we be strengthened by the promise, and worthy of the age to come.
• Hymn 372 How Can We Sinners Know

Luke 20:27-38 (HCSB)
27 Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came up and questioned Him: 28 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother has a wife, and dies childless, his brother should take the wife and produce offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife and died without children. 30 Also the second 31 and the third took her. In the same way, all seven died and left no children. 32 Finally, the woman died too. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For all seven had married her.”
34 Jesus told them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are counted worthy to take part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36 For they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are sons of God, since they are sons of the resurrection. 37 Moses even indicated in the passage about the burning bush that the dead are raised, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. 38 He is not God of the dead but of the living, because all are living to Him.” ò

Sunday, November 3, 2019

How You Live Now

• All Saints’ Sunday
with Isaiah 1:10-18    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk
A video of the worship service was posted on Facebook 11/03/19

• In February 2015 the musical Hamilton opened in New York. In 2016 it won 11 Tony awards, including best musical, and it won a Grammy too for musical theatre album. Tells the story of immigrant and US founding father Alexander Hamilton.
Near the end of the first act, five years in to the Revolutionary War, General George Washington offers Hamilton the military leadership he’s long desired, and Washington counsels Hamilton: Let me tell you what I wish I’d known when I was young and dreamed of glory: you have no control who lives, who dies, who tells your story.

Later in the musical, Aaron Burr laments that in spite of all his accomplishments, he himself will only be remembered as the man who shot Alexander Hamilton, and Hamilton’s wife Eliza spends the last fifty years of her life seeing that her husband’s story as one who shaped the nation gets told.

• You have no control who lives, who dies, who tells your story, but oftentimes, how you live now affects how you will be remembered.

• Today All Saints’ Sunday, and we read the names of some of our loved ones who have died since last November. Some of them died suddenly, unexpectedly: Dale. Larry. Ryan. Jack. Others more expected: PeeWee. Myrtle. Boogie. All of them loved, all of them leave some kind of hole in life, and it takes an act of faith to trust that they know the peace of God’s eternal kingdom now. And how they lived affected how they are remembered.

• You can obey the law and not be remembered. You pay your taxes? You’re almost invisible. You get negative attention by not paying them. And you get positive attention by living generously.

I think of John Wesley who lived along the lines of earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can, that it would be a sin against the poor if a wealthy man died with a large bank account.
I think of Andrew Carnegie, who lived along the lines of learn all you can, earn all you can, give all you can. Carnegie dictum. One of the wealthiest men in history, and he gave 90% of his earnings away.

• How you live now affects how you will be remembered.

• Prophet Isaiah, God speaks about how you live now.
Don’t live mindlessly. God hates that.

Live in relationship. Live in relationship with God and people. Esteem others.
Ritualistically going through the motions doesn’t honor me, God says. It’s your own mind game.

What I honor: seeking justice – that is, what is right among people. Helping the oppressed. Defending the orphan, pleading for the widow. Using the opportunity, power, influence you have to lift others who lack opportunity, power, influence.

That’s a good way to be remembered. That’s a way to live that honors life, gives glory to God.

That’s kingdom living, living as one who already knows the peace that God will give.

• All Saints’ remembrance, followed by Holy Communion

Celebration of the Saints            All Saints’ Sunday       11/03/19
We remember
and we look forward to seeing again in the kingdom:
PeeWee, Myrtle D, Dale A, Larry S, Arthur B, Ryan T, Jack W, Boogie.

Isaiah 1:10-18 (CEB)
10 Hear the Lord’s word, you leaders of Sodom. Listen to our God’s teaching, people of Gomorrah!
11 What should I think about all your sacrifices? says the Lord. I’m fed up with entirely burned offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts. I don’t want the blood of bulls, lambs, and goats. 12 When you come to appear before me, who asked this from you, this trampling of my temple’s courts?
13 Stop bringing worthless offerings. Your incense repulses me.
New moon, sabbath, and the calling of an assembly—I can’t stand wickedness with celebration! 14 I hate your new moons and your festivals. They’ve become a burden that I’m tired of bearing.
15 When you extend your hands, I’ll hide my eyes from you.
Even when you pray for a long time, I won’t listen. Your hands are stained with blood.
16 Wash! Be clean! Remove your ugly deeds from my sight. Put an end to such evil; 17 learn to do good. Seek justice: help the oppressed; defend the orphan; plead for the widow.
18 Come now, and let’s settle this, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow. If they are red as crimson, they will become like wool. ò